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Sulfur speciation in Sphagnum peat moss modified by mutualistic interactions with cyanobacteria

by Elizabeth M Herndon, Jocelyn Richardson, Alyssa A Carrell, Eric M Pierce, David J Weston
Publication Type
Journal Name
New Phytologist
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1998 to 2008

● Peat moss (Sphagnum spp.) develops mutualistic interactions with cyanobacteria by providing carbohydrates and S compounds in exchange for N-rich compounds, potentially facilitating N inputs into peatlands. Here, we evaluate how colonization of Sphagnum angustifolium hyaline cells by Nostoc muscorum modifies S abundance and speciation at the scales of individual cells and across whole leaves.
● Sulfur K-edge X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy was used to identify bulk and micron-scale S speciation across isolated cyanobacteria colonies, and in colonized and uncolonized leaves.
● Uncolonized leaves contained primarily reduced organic S and oxidized sulfonate- and sulfate-containing compounds. Increasing Nostoc colonization resulted in more total S and increased sulfate relative to reduced S and sulfonate, as integrated across leaf clusters that included branch and stem leaves. At the scale of individual hyaline cells, colonized cells exhibited localized enrichment of reduced S surrounded by diffuse sulfonate, similar to observations of cyanobacteria colonies cultured in the absence of leaves.
● We infer that colonization stimulates plant S uptake and the production of sulfate-containing metabolites that are concentrated in stem tissues. Sulfate compounds that are produced in response to colonization become depleted in colonized cells where they may be converted into reduced S metabolites by cyanobacteria.